The Politics of Jesus and the New Majority

President Bush and the First Lady leaving their polling location in Crawford, TX.Two thousand years ago, Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, reproached Jesus’ silence with the following words, “You do not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify you?”

Jesus’ response to Pilate’s challenge was clear and direct, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:10-11).

The politics of Jesus are not difficult to understand. He believed that ultimately all power derives from God and that even pagan governors owe their own position of leadership to the Providence of the very God they refuse to acknowledge.

We see this truth manifest everywhere in the Bible. In the book of Daniel for instance, God had to chastise the pagan Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar until he had learned this very lesson, “that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes” (Daniel 4:32). When the apostle Paul taught the Roman Christians how to submit to the pagan Empire that governed them, he told them to realize that “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist are established by God” (Romans 13:2).

What Jesus told Pilate was true two thousand years ago, and it is still true today. There is an overarching and invisible Providence of God governing the world in which we live. God’s Providential care over His creation includes the determination of who the governing authorities will be. No king, ruler, president, or congressional majority comes to power apart from the One “who works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Ephesians 1:11).

Politically conservative Christians who are disappointed by yesterday’s election results need not be demoralized. Yes, it is true that the House and the Senate will be run by a majority that by and large does not stand for the right to life of the unborn and that opposes defining “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman. It is not true, however, that God’s purposes in the world are being thwarted. God continues to rule, and we should therefore pray all the more earnestly for those whom God has ordained to govern us (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

No matter what your politics are, there is solace in knowing that “our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3), and that “the LORD has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all” (Psalm 103:19). So let us lift up our new leaders in prayer knowing that “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Psalm 135:6).

25 Responses to The Politics of Jesus and the New Majority

  1. Paul November 9, 2006 at 9:29 am #

    “Politically conservative Christians who are disappointed by yesterday’s election results need not be demoralized. Yes, it is true that the House and the Senate will be run by a majority that by and large does not stand for the right to life of the unborn and that opposes defining “marriage” as the union of one man and one woman. It is not true, however, that God’s purposes in the world are being thwarted. God continues to rule.”

    God only has two purposes in the world? That’s news to me.

  2. dennyrburk November 9, 2006 at 9:53 am #

    Paul,

    I can see how one might read it that way, but that’s not what I meant. Obviously God’s purposes comprise more than just those two issues.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  3. Steve Hayes November 9, 2006 at 10:10 am #

    Denny’s certainly not claiming that those are God’s only two purposes in the world, but I get your point. Many politically conservative Christians vote according to those two issues, and those two issues alone. I’m not sure how to reconcile this. It’s very difficult for me to not see abortion as a deal breaker when I’m deciding on where to cast my vote.

    What I’d like to be able to do is vote based upon an overarching vision that is noble and moral and good for America. That is not, however, how the political powers that be have decided to present themselves or their parties. They are no longer defined by grand visions and noble pursuits. Instead, both parties have chosen to define themselves as the party who “doesn’t do what that other bum does.”

    Politicians don’t stand for anything these days, they just stand against each other. The way they stand against each other is by polarizing individual issues. In their quest to destroy each other, they have lost any kind of overarching vision. As a result, our country is no longer run by grand visions, but by single issues. It’s a pretty sad situation.

  4. Paul November 9, 2006 at 11:51 am #

    Denny,

    I know that, and you know that. However, I wonder how many “Christian” politicians know that. And I wonder what kind of witness we as Christians provide when we’d rather focus on those two issues instead of the whole of Christianity. And how can we talk about the sanctity of life with 655,000 Iraqis dead in the past 3 years (far outstripping Saddam’s reign)? How can we talk about taking care of the poor when conservative think tanks are trying to say that we don’t have an issue of poverty in this country (give me a day or two, and I’ll find the link)? How can we talk about “what you do to the least of these you do to me” when we continually give the shaft to the “least of these”?

    It’s a machiavellian ploy to say that Christians only be compelled by these two very divisive issues.

    And Steve, what you said was absolutely priceless and true…

    “Politicians don’t stand for anything these days, they just stand against each other. The way they stand against each other is by polarizing individual issues. In their quest to destroy each other, they have lost any kind of overarching vision. As a result, our country is no longer run by grand visions, but by single issues. It’s a pretty sad situation.”

  5. Steve Hayes November 9, 2006 at 12:19 pm #

    Paul,

    While I agree that the visions for our country should be grand and consistent on issues of “life”, I don’t think that all issues of life are equal. I don’t think that abortion is a complex issue of life and death. I think it’s a pretty simple issue, and it’s morally reprehensible. The dead in Iraq, however, is a complex issue that can’t be equated with the abortion issue. You can be pro-life and still have mixed feelings about war and pacifism. You can be pro-life and not have a cut and dry plan on how to deal with poverty.

    I think you’re right, and I share your desire to have a pro-life vision that is more consistent with all “life” issues, but I think people dying in Iraq and abortion are apples and oranges.

    I’m open to your thougths on the issue, though, and I’d love to read what you have to say.

  6. Celucien Joseph November 9, 2006 at 1:17 pm #

    The God of the Bible concerns about a lot of things including peace in the world, loving one another, providing for the poor, immgration issue, racial problem in the world (particular in american soil) and not simply/only two things-“the right of the unborn,” and the rightful marriage (between a man and woman). God is greater than the noted (two) issues that have been the attention of American Evangelical Christians. The divine purposes comprise a lot things including things that we label as “minor” issues. Sometimes I wonder if christians in America read the same Bible.

    Blessings,

    Celucien Joseph

  7. Steve Hayes November 9, 2006 at 1:31 pm #

    Yeah, those awful American Christians! How dare they stand up for the unborn!!

    Now look, if we stand up for the unborn at the expense of other important issues, that’s a problem. Maybe that’s what has happened in this country, but Christians are supposed to do the right things, and standing against injustice is the right thing to do. At least give us some credit for standing up against a very unjust issue like abortion.

  8. Paul November 9, 2006 at 2:17 pm #

    Steve,

    we agree that abortion is reprehensible. There’s no argument there. My fears over it becoming illegal have nothing to do with “women’s rights” and instead have everything to do with (a) how much deadlier the procedure will become (because you absolutely will not wipe out abortions with an abortion ban), and (b) what it will mean for pro-life politics. As I’ve said elsewhere, if you want to see the presidency and both houses swept by atheists backed by NARAL, put through an abortion ban that has the correct language to stick. The republicans know this, and this is why they intentionally botch partial birth abortion bans (by not putting in health provisions and writing the bill without using medical terminology), and it’s why there was next to no money spent to advocate the ban in South Dakota. The republicans are being B.S. artists in regard to abortion legislation, and if you need proof, look no further than the way that they handle these scenarios.

    Now, insofar as your questions about the sanctity of Iraqi life, it is just as sacred. Face it, we invaded their country and upset a precarious balance that killed many, but not as many as we have killed in the process of putting up a puppet government in Baghdad. We shouldn’t have been there, and their blood is on our hands.

    As for the poverty issue (and lets not forget the environment either, after all God made the planet for us, the least we can do is respect it), if you have no want to help the poor, you are clearly in violation of Jesus’ teachings. End of story. And if we can’t get our citizens to help out of their own sense of charity, then it’s time for the government to take over. I see it just that cut and dried.

    I give you credit for standing up against an unjust issue like abortion. Just as I hope that you would give me credit for wanting to reduce the number of abortion through methods other than banning it (I’ve been through this before elsewhere). We do read the same Bibles, but some people emphasize different parts. Jim Wallis deserves credit for focusing on the societal aspects of the gospel as well.

    I would hope that we could have more dialogue on this, as it’s important that we all understand where we’re coming from instead of one side shouting “liberals!” and the other side shouting “conservatives!”

    That gets us nowhere. A good natured and well fleshed out discussion might get us somewhere. Here’s to hoping for the best.

  9. Scott November 9, 2006 at 2:25 pm #

    I’m afraid I have to take issue with this notion of “standing up for the unborn” and reply with a rather provocative assertion:

    Pro-lifers have no interest in ending abortion.

    If you claim that a fetus is a child, and that children are being murdered, then such a claim, I think, requires a kind of action much more radical than voting for Republicans. Such a political “action” as voting, in this case, is really no action at all, but rather a deferral that ensures perpetuation, not solution, of the problem. Note the process: We vote for candidates who may have a chance to appoint conservative judges, judges who may overturn Roe v. Wade, which would then solve the issue, that is, until liberal judges again reverse that ruling, and on and on we go.

    If you’re trying to prevent murder through politics, I question whether you truly believe that murder is at issue.

    Let me put it this way: if you really believe millions of children are being murdered, you don’t “stand up” for those children by proclaiming your support on blogs or talk-radio call-in shows. If you really believe that such an atrocity is taking place, that very belief would require you to take militant action. Pro-life-ism without deeds, like faith, is dead.

  10. Celucien Joseph November 9, 2006 at 2:35 pm #

    The problem is equating Christianity with a particular party. My concern is why are we protesting against one or two particular issues when neglecting other essential matters which I mentioned in my previous note. If we are going to exercise injustice, let us apply it to every sphere of life. For example, killing innnocent people in war is like murderning an unborn child.

  11. Celucien Joseph November 9, 2006 at 2:36 pm #

    Thanks for your comment Scott.

  12. Steve Hayes November 9, 2006 at 3:28 pm #

    OK, there are many assumptions flying around without many of my actual statements to back them up. First off, Paul, who said that Iraqi lives aren’t just as sacred as innocent children’s lives? I don’t think I ever said that. What I said was that abortion is far different from death as a result of war or upheaval. Even our laws indicate that the circumstances are different for murder that is premeditated and particularly brutal as opposed to murder that is accidental or justified by self defense. In the case of abortion, our government is approving the mass murder of innocent children. If you can’t see the difference between those circumstances and the circumstances that occur in war or occupation, you are blind. It has nothing to do with whether or not one life is sacred and the other is not. It has to do with the circumstances surrounding these issues. Using your logic, Germans dying during WWII is the same as doctors killing babies during abortions. It is not that cut and dry. The loss of life is equally regretable, but the circumstances are far different.

    As for the poverty issue, I don’t recall saying that I had “no want to help the poor.” I recall saying that helping the poor is a complex issue with a number of things to consider. When you help the poor there are societal issues that you face that are complex and require much thought and action. We should be thinking about these things and acting upon them, and to be honest, I’m not aware of a single church that doesn’t invest some of its resources in helping the poor. I’ve been a part of about six churches in my life, and every one of them has had programs to help the poor and needy. Let’s not proport that just because Christians are more vocal about abortion means that they don’t help the poor. Most of the charitable organizations in the world are Christian. Nearly every hospital in America began as the result of a church. I’m not sure how you could conclude that Christians don’t help the poor.

    I also don’t remember saying anything about “liberal” or “conservative.” I don’t like labels. I think those words are over-used. I’m not a Denny Burk Republican (no offense, Denny). If anything, I’d characterize myself as more of an independant.

    Secondly, Scott, I’m not sure how you think you know what kind of stances I’ve made on abortion. I, along with many other Christians, have participated in non-violent protests of abortion clinics. I would continue to do it if I felt that it weren’t a dead end. The pastor of my church was arrested for non-violently protesting a clinic. I give money to organizations that fight for the rights of the unborn, and I talk about it openly to those I lead. I’m not sure exactly what you want me to do, but I can tell you that I am secure in the fact that I have, and continue to, take a stand against abortion that comprises much more than casting a vote.

    This is not a debate about my convictions, but it is a debate about making Christians seem like narrow-minded, two vote issue freaks. I’ll admit, there are those Christians who have given us a bad name by being exactly that. There are far more, I believe, who aren’t nearly that narrow, or nearly that stupid.

    It’s just funny to me that you guys are bashing me for having strong feelings about abortion. I have strong feelings about a number of things, but I find abortion to be particularly troubling. I think anyone with a conscience should. Does that mean it’s the only issue out there? Of course not. Does it mean that it’s worth fighting against? Yes. So, what’s the problem?

    I hear George Clooney and Oprah making a big deal of the situation in Darfur (as they should), but I’m not narrow enough to think that’s the only thing they’re about. Please don’t make the same assumption about me and other Christians who think abortion’s a big deal.

  13. Paul November 9, 2006 at 5:49 pm #

    Steve,

    calm down. I never mentioned you by name, and with good reason. I wasn’t referring to you. And the one time that I used the word “you” I was referring to the general second tense. So, again, calm down.

    Now, onto your thoughts:

    1) We agree that the taking of innocent life through abortion is an abhoration. Where I think you’re confused is about my take on pacifism. You bring up German lives lost in WWII. Might I remind you that WWII was a war which we had to enter in order to SAVE lives. Yes, millions were killed worldwide, but countless millions more would have lost their lives had Germany been allowed to take over Europe and Japan allowed to do likewise in Asia. We were attacked by Japan and Germany declared war on us. We obviously had to go and fight.

    However, Iraq was a situation where either we went for oil or so that we would have a strategically placed base of operations in the region. But the WMD ploy was obviously baloney, and I think that Bush’s ha ha funny joke about looking for WMD’s in the oval office was a far more telling joke than it was ever meant to be.

    Sometimes, war is necessary, without a doubt. But, shouldn’t we be far more judicious about when and where and how to go to war? Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq without conclusive evidence, and Rumsfeld’s bungling of the invasion don’t seem like they received any forethought whatsoever. There was no thought given to the sanctity of life. And I have to say, in this case of war, anyway, that any Christian that still supports this invasion has a similarly tainted view of the sanctity of life.

    As for poverty and charity, here’s the problems as I see them:

    1) I’ve seen, heard and read far too many people that call themselves Christians claim that the poor had it coming. That their sins caused them to be poor. As if poverty stricken Christians don’t exist. Or as if there’s a Christian version of the caste system. These are all of the same ones that yammer on about being scared of higher taxes, forgetting that we have the second lowest tax rate of anywhere in the civilized world (only Hong Kong’s flat rate tax is lower). That worldview doesn’t allow for Jesus’ commands to help the poor, rather, it only proves that it’s harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to go to heaven.

    2) Christians forget that charity is more than dumping a can of creamed corn into a box at church twice a year. Real charity means getting your hands dirty, combatting poverty where it stands. Where are the Christian mentoring programs? Where are the Christian job training centers? Where are the Christians adopting kids from the inner city instead of going to China to adopt a cute little chinese kid and treating them like the rolexes of the 21st century? People like to throw money at a problem and call it charity. Real charity is work, usually in scary neighborhoods, and it’s done until results are seen. When we start seeing more of that (and I’ll give you this: there is a bunch of it happening already, but not nearly enough), then we can talk about how much your everyday Christian is doing to advance the war on poverty.

    And Steve, I never said that you said anything about liberal and conservative labels. However, they’ve happened here on this very board. And those labels cause division instead of dialogue, and they’re patently stupid. What I was trying to say (and I thought I said it pretty clearly) was that if we can talk together as Christians, instead of barking at each other as “liberals” and “conservatives” we can see where each other is coming from far more clearly.

    If there is even one Christian that is a single issue voter, that is one too many. However, as you said as well, far too many have defined themselves as such, and unfortunately, we’ve all been branded as that. I’d like to see that stop. And I’d like to see a level headed discussion start.

    I thought we were on the right path. Maybe we will be soon.

    Paul

  14. Steve Hayes November 9, 2006 at 6:30 pm #

    Paul,

    I am calm. I just don’t like to be misrepresented. This statement that you made in your first email was what made me feel misrepresented: “insofar as your questions about the sanctity of Iraqi life, it is just as sacred.” I never questioned the sanctity of Iraqi life, but I did address the difference between an innocent (in the true sense of the word) child and a global military action. I believe there is a grave difference, but you haven’t really addressed that.

    I do agree with some of your assessments about the Iraq war. I don’t think the sanctity of life was factored in as much as it should have been. I also don’t think we’re involved in anything close to as noble as what happened in WWII. I beleive that Iraq was a stategic move to flank Iran with Afghanistan and Iraq – ideally functional democracies – in order to gain a foothold in the middle east. I think the whole thing has been mismanaged, and I’m frustrated with it.

    I also agree that Christians have been slow to act on behalf of those who are truly in need. I think the tide’s turning on that, though, and I see more action from the coming generations in the direction of true charity than I’ve seen in a while. You and I are in the same boat on this one. We must do a better job of taking social action on behalf of the weak and disenfranchised.

    Again, though, as is consistent with this conversation, I think this is a different issue than abortion. I like the fact that you are advocating a holistic approach to life, but I think there are those who view abortion as a life or death issue, and poverty as a work in progress. There is more urgency with one than with the other. That makes sense to me. I’d like to think I’d try to save someone’s life before I offered them a sandwich. But you are correct to label them both as “pro-life” issues. Life includes more than just breath and a heartbeat. It includes quality of life as well, and I think that should be a huge priority. I don’t, however, think all “life” issues are the same in there urgency. I hope that makes sense.

    Paul, I’m probably more comfortable with a conversation with you than I am with most on this board. I’m not a brainless Republican who thinks George W. is a god. I have some really harsh criticisms of this administration, and I think the Republicans got what they deserved on elelction day. I don’t like labels, and I don’t like easy answers. I just think democrats have foolish, easy answers too.

    I’d love to visit some time. I’m not mad at you, but I can’t always agree. I do love the conversation!! Sorry if I came across too harsh.

  15. Billy November 10, 2006 at 11:06 am #

    It baffles me when people dicuss the causes of the Iraq War and the subjects of oil and imperialism are brought forth. Does anybody remember Iraq’s refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors and subsequent violations of U.N. sanctions from the Gulf War. They did find that Iraq had been producing warheads in 2003(however no chemical agents were found). The U.S. government also claimed the Iraqi government was harboring Al-Qaeda networks. Sure enough, Abu Musab Zarqawi was found to be operating in Iraq. Is it just me, or have these things been forgotten when we discuss Iraq as a “failure” or when people say “we shouldn’t have gone over there”?

  16. Paul November 10, 2006 at 12:39 pm #

    Billy,

    it baffles me when people get the facts wrong. Yes, the U.S. government said a lot…that was later found to be wrong.

    Al-Qaeda started operating in Iraq AFTER we went in there. Zarqawi got permission to call his group “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” directly from Bin Laden, but it’s a separate group from the miscreants behind the 9/11, 3/11 and 7/11 attacks.

    Just because Iraq had warheads doesn’t mean that they were headed in our direction either. And to tell the truth, I could have cared less if Iraq was going to launch them at Saudi Arabia (the actual home of most of the 9/11 crew), Iran (nuff said), or Syria (again, nuff said).

    If America was so bent on getting the terrorists, then we needed to go into Afghanistan with more that 11,000 troops. That’s something that we didn’t do, and we’re paying the price for it now.

    If you want to be an apologist for Mr. Bush, then you go right ahead. But realize that unless you’re talking about a very small number of issues, you’re going to be wrong most of the time.

    Sorry.

  17. Billy November 10, 2006 at 3:16 pm #

    The purpose of manufacturing the warheads is irrelevant. It doens’t matter if he wanted to shoot them in his own backyard. Saddam’s regime was in clear violation of U.N. sanctions by producing them.

    Al-Qaeda members were already in Iraq before we deployed in 2003, being sheltered in Kurdistan by the islamic militant group Ansar al-Islam (who themselves can be defined as a terrorist organization). If you want to be a terrorist apologist you can go right on ahead. As for me, I guess i’ll just apologize for Bush, Cheney, the 107th Congress, and oh yeah Nancy Pelosi.

  18. debbie November 10, 2006 at 4:32 pm #

    Have you read Epicenter by Joel Rosenberg?

  19. Paul November 10, 2006 at 4:46 pm #

    Billy,

    is simply being in clear violation of UN sanctions reason enough for 3,000 of our troops to be dead, 20,000 to be injured and/or disabled and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to be killed? I think not. Everything that you’ve mentioned was inconclusive at best. This was a war for strategy, and it was a war for oil. Neither of those are reasons for war unless you’re a greedy capitalist pig who thinks only in terms of cash, not in terms of anything even remotely close to Christian thought.

    And, oh yeah, who’s the bigger apologist for the terrorists? The guy who supported the president and administration that was “obsessed with Bin Laden” (republicans’ words, not mine) or the supporters of the administration whose incompetence has left thousands of our own dead?

    By the way, this is the 109th Congress. Please get it right.

  20. Billy November 10, 2006 at 5:33 pm #

    The 107th Congress was the session that voted to go to into Iraq. The Senate voted 98-1 and the House was an overwhelming majority as well . You have attacked my arguments as “inconclusive” yet I have only mentioned facts. However you say this war is “for strategy and it was for oil” yet you offer no evidence of these accusations.

  21. Zach November 10, 2006 at 11:04 pm #

    Paul,

    have you looked back in your history books about numbers of the dead in wars past?. all those dead soldiers and wounded soldiers is what got us this country. i know that people have friends or relatives over there but dont be so narrow minded on the numbers of how many died. look at Israel, they have been fighting forever. yes we are not fighting for the same reason but America is so weak and so sensitive to what we are dealing with. THIS IS WAR!!! not paintball not catpure the flag or popularity and politic. do you remember the alamo? they pretty much all died. but they said what they wanted to say. and lookie there we have texas.

    all i am saying is that war is war, not something where you should expect us to have like 4 or 5 people die. also our millitary is 100% volunteer, did you know that? remember those wars we fought a long time ago then judge this one.

  22. Paul November 11, 2006 at 10:50 am #

    Zach,

    what’s your point? I’m not saying that war doesn’t have its place, it does. However, being geopolitical globo-policeman isn’t it.

    When you become one of those volunteers in the army, why don’t you tell me then about how glorious it is to fight for oil and strategic placement? Most of the soldiers coming back are coming back and turning into Democrats opposed to the war. How much more proof do you need that this war just isn’t worth fighting? Is the word of the troops not enough for you?

    And by the way, re: the all volunteer army, I fully believe the draft should be re-instated. I also believe that having the draft re-instated might make congress and the president act a little more responsibly when sending our kids off to war.

  23. Zach November 11, 2006 at 6:50 pm #

    paul what you seem to be saying is a buch of random stuff about something you really have no say in.

    what did the people that fought in the Alamo fight for? the Alamo was a hopeless cause to Americans but those that belived the other way fought and died. Now we have texas, again dont be so narrow minded, you cant tell what this war will do for America. So sit back and watch. What do you think about Vietnam? who knew what would have happened if we didnt go there? you didnt. you dont know what will come from this war until its all said and done. dont knock it till you try it. accept whats going on and stop complaining. all you guys are being very sensitive to whats going on. thats my point. your being narrowminded on the malfactor of the situation and not considering the future benifits of this war.

  24. Paul November 13, 2006 at 9:30 am #

    The “future benefits of this war?”

    Denny, do you know that your readers smoke really powerful weed? That can be the only explanation for drivel like this.

  25. Debbie November 14, 2006 at 2:13 pm #

    Scott said ‘Let me put it this way: if you really believe millions of children are being murdered, you don’t “stand up” for those children by proclaiming your support on blogs or talk-radio call-in shows. If you really believe that such an atrocity is taking place, that very belief would require you to take militant action. Pro-life-ism without deeds, like faith, is dead.’

    Amen. why are so many christians sitting on their butt and doing nothing about abortion? They are the ones that have no right to complain.

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